Update 14 November 2020: Reply to the open letter.
The reply is signed by the Director of the War Memorial. It overstates the extent of change to the project as a result of the consultation but asks everyone to accept that the process has been done properly [!]. On the good side, it thanks people like the letter signatories for their passion and gives the views of the Australian Heritage Council more prominence in relative terms than the Director did in his recent appearance at Estimates.
The letter does not persist in the previous exaggerated claims about the degree of public support for the project and it looks forward to continued engagement.
This media release went out yesterday, including an open letter sent to the Prime Minister.
Open letter to the Prime Minister opposing the $498m Australian War Memorial redevelopment: media release on behalf of signatories
Over 70 notable Australians have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of the Australian Heritage Council and opposing the $498m Australian War Memorial redevelopment.
The Council is the Australian government’s principal adviser on heritage matters and it made a submission to the War Memorial in the current consultation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. [Tom McIlroy’s story in the Australian Financial Review on the AHC submission.]
The submission detailed a number of the Council’s concerns with the redevelopment project saying, ‘Regrettably the Council cannot support the conclusion that the proposed redevelopment will not have a serious impact on the listed heritage values of the site and recommends that the matters above be given serious attention’.
The submission was signed by the Chair of the Council, the Hon. Dr David Kemp AC, a former Coalition Cabinet Minister.
The open letter (text below) urges the government not to accept the current Memorial proposal. The proposal should be withdrawn and significantly amended, or EPBC Act approval should be refused.
Among the signatories are: Paul Barratt (former Secretary of the Department of Defence), Paul Daley (author and journalist), Elizabeth Evatt (first Chief Justice of the Family Court), Steve Gower and Brendon Kelson (former Directors of the War Memorial), Carmen Lawrence (formerly Premier of Western Australia, federal Minister, and Chair of the Australian Heritage Council), Don Watson (author), architects, historians, former diplomats, and former officers of the Memorial.
The signatories include 22 recipients of awards under the Order of Australia.
Contact: David Stephens 0413 867 972; firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the open letter
22 October 2020
The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Prime Minister
The Australian War Memorial development project will have major heritage impacts on the Memorial, a place that has deep meaning for all Australians. The intervention by the Australian Heritage Council, the government’s principal adviser on heritage matters, shows that reconsideration of the project is imperative.
The Council is chaired by the Hon. Dr David Kemp AC, a former Cabinet minister. Its recent submission to the Memorial under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) 1999 concluded thus:
Regrettably the Council cannot support the conclusion that the proposed redevelopment will not have a serious impact on the listed heritage values of the site and recommends that the matters above [set out in the Council’s submission] be given serious attention.
While the signatories to this open letter have multiple perspectives on the many issues raised by the project, we strongly support the Council’s views and are united in our concerns about the heritage impacts. These impacts include:
- the proposed demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall (2001);
- the loss of the free-standing form of the Memorial building, to be swamped by a huge glazed addition (that will also be visible down Anzac Parade);
- the loss for most visitors of the existing commemorative entry, with entry mostly being via the lower ground level; and
- on the overall landscape setting of the Memorial from changes to the Parade Ground in front of the Memorial, the expansion of other buildings on site and the overall hardening of what is currently a respectful balance of built and landscape elements.
The Memorial must be supported to achieve its core functions, but this should (and can) occur without damage to its core commemorative strength – the iconic heritage building and site.
We urge the Australian Government not to accept the current proposal. It should be withdrawn and significantly amended, or EPBC Act approval should be refused.
In view of the importance of this issue, a copy of this letter has been forwarded to the Ministers for the Environment and Veterans’ Affairs, the Acting Chair of the Public Works Committee and Members of the House of Representatives.
Yours faithfully, the following organisations and individuals
Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites): Helen Lardner, President
Australian Historical Association: Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, President
Docomomo Australia: Dr Scott Robertson, Australian President (Docomomo is the international organisation concerned with the documentation and conservation of buildings and areas of modern architecture)
National Trust of Australia (ACT): Gary Kent, President
Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter): Brett Odgers
Geoff Ashley, heritage consultant
Blake Ayshford, screen writer
Vicken Babkenian, researcher, Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Paul Barratt AO, former Secretary, Department of Defence
Professor Emerita Joan E Beaumont AM FASSA FAIIA, Australian National University
Dr Margaret Beavis, Vice President, Medical Association for Prevention of War
Professor Diane Bell
Professor Frank Bongiorno AM
Max Bourke AM, founding Director, Australian Heritage Commission (later Council)
Penleigh Boyd, architect
Dr Alison Broinowski AM, former Australian diplomat
Richard Broinowski AO, former Australian diplomat
Bishop George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn
Richard Butler AC
Professor Marie Carroll
Dr Peter Cochrane FAHA, historian, Hon. Associate, University of Sydney
Peter G. Corlett OAM, sculptor
Associate Professor Martin Crotty, University of Queensland
Paul Daley, author and journalist; Walkley Award winner
Professor Joy Damousi FASSA, Director, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University
Mark Dawes, former Assistant Director, Branch Head, Corporate Services, Australian War Memorial
Emeritus Professor Phillip Deery, Victoria University
John Denton, architect, Australian Institute of Architects gold medallist
Dr Meredith Edwards AM
Hon. Elizabeth Evatt AC
Dr Romain Fathi, Senior Lecturer in History, Flinders University
Stephen B. Flora, veteran and citizen
Peter Freeman OAM, architectural historian, conservator and writer
Dr Bill Gammage AM FASSA, historian
Dr Rolf Gerritsen, Professorial Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University
Paddy Gourley, former First Assistant Secretary, Department of Defence
Emeritus Professor Tom Griffiths AO FASSA
Major General Steve Gower (Ret’d) AO, AO Mil, Vietnam veteran, former Director, Australian War Memorial
Dr David Headon, historical consultant
Alistair Henchman RPIA, tourism planner
Dr Carolyn Holbrook, ARC Senior Fellow, Deakin University
Dr Douglas Hynd, Adjunct Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture
Professor Tracy Ireland, Professor of Cultural Heritage, University of Canberra; editor, Historic Environment
Dr Benjamin T. Jones, Central Queensland University
Brendon Kelson, former Director, Australian War Memorial
Dr Julie Kimber, Senior Lecturer, Politics and History, Swinburne University of Technology
Emeritus Professor Hon. Dr Carmen Lawrence, chair, Australian Heritage Council 2010-18
Richard Llewellyn, former Registrar, Australian War Memorial
Dr Judith McKay, former Curator, Australian War Memorial; former member, Queensland Heritage Council
Professor Mark McKenna, Chair, Department of History, University of Sydney
Dr Michael McKernan, historian; former Deputy Director, Australian War Memorial
Eric Martin AM, heritage architect; former access consultant, Australian War Memorial
John Menadue AO, publisher
Stewart Mitchell, former head of heritage, buildings and services, Australian War Memorial
Dr Douglas Newton, historian
Brett Odgers, Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter)
Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, Chair of History, Flinders University; President, Australian Historical Society
Roger Pegrum, architect
Michael Piggott AM, former Senior Curator, Australian War Memorial
Dr Richard Reid, former Senior Historian, Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Professor Henry Reynolds
Professor Noah Riseman, Australian Catholic University
Associate Professor Tilman Ruff AO, Co-President, Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Professor Lyndall Ryan AM
Penelope Seidler AM, architect
Wendy Sharpe, artist and Australian War Memorial official war artist
Professor Peter Stanley FAHA, UNSW Canberra
Dr David Stephens, convener, Heritage Guardians
Professor Alistair Thomson FASSA, Professor of History, Monash University
Dr Sue Wareham OAM, President, Medical Association for Prevention of War
Don Watson, author
Dr Don Watson FAIA, Adjunct Professor of Architecture, University of Queensland
Dr Peter Watts AM, Emeritus Director, Historic Houses Trust of NSW
Ernst Willheim, Visiting Fellow, ANU College of Law
Janet Wilson, retired librarian
Professor Angela Woollacott, Manning Clark Professor of History, ANU
Professor Clare Wright, Professorial Research Fellow and Professor of History, La Trobe University
Attachment: Submission from the Australian Heritage Council to the War Memorial
(For documentation on the EPBC process, go to the Memorial’s website. The Australian Heritage Council’s submission is in Preliminary Documentation – Public Comment, submission No. 152.)
Update 23 October 2020: Canberra City News.
Update 24 October 2020: The Riot Act.
Update 26 October 2020: Sydney Morning Herald.
Update 28 October 2020: Sydney Morning Herald.
23 October 2020 updated
I agree. We are all stakeholders in what happens at that place. In the 20 years I worked there I never saw anything like the controversy this project has caused. That is such a shame. It should never have gone that way. The process and design is so flawed. I only wish the much referenced veterans (and others), especially the ones who understand the extraordinary tangible and intangible qualities of the site, and know what we risk losing through this development, were more vocal.
It is to be expected that there will always be a range of differing viewpoints associated with a project like this. I’m not arguing against the position expressed in the letter, just trying to relate it to ‘due process’, ie. one in which the Prime Minister’s counsel acknowledges the importance of all stakeholders, even the ‘unprominent’.
With respect, as one who signed the petition, and, like most Australians, has strong family connections to war, this is about protecting that extraordinary site and building which does so much for commemoration. We all have a responsibility for that place. As the letter said “The Memorial must be supported to achieve its core functions, but this should (and can) occur without damage to its core commemorative strength – the iconic heritage building and site”.
Those who signed the petition are undoubtedly ‘prominent Australians’. How many had actually faced the enemy, however? Only one … Mr Gower. His book, ‘Rounds Complete’ details his role as an arty forward observer and is worth reading in this respect. Maybe his signature should have influence, maybe not. So how is it that 69 people who have not put their lives on the line for their country, consider that they have the right to dictate the manner in which the AWM depicts the history of those who have served their nation in War?
Of course, many of the signatories could be aware of the feelings of forebears, ie family members who have served their nation in War.
On what basis does the AWM credit the importance of the petition? If it is only on self-professed ‘prominence’ … does it have any credence? What if another petition was to be organised seeking the views of those who have been prepared to give their lives on behalf of their nation.
If media and publicity is to be used to influence Government decisions re the commemorations of ours nation’s history, is it too much to ask that the views of those who were actually involved in creating the history … be requested.